WEINBERG BILL TO EXTEND WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS FOR EMPLOYEE DISCLOSURE OF GOVERNMENT WASTE AND ABUSE ADVANCES

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, testifies on the Senate floor.

 

Measure Would Protect Employees Who Disclose Waste of Public Funds or Governmental Abuse from Employer Retaliation

 

TRENTON A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg which would extend whistleblower protections to employees who disclose any waste of public funds or incidents of governmental abuse or mismanagement was approved today by the Senate Labor Committee.

“The joint legislative committee hearings on the GeorgeWashingtonBridge lane closures opened a window into the abuse that can take place in government and because of the environment created can go unreported. The culture of fear at the Port Authority was so pervasive that many employees acted against their better judgment for four days as traffic gridlocked Fort Lee. Moreover, no one said a word,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen), co-chair of the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation. “We need to encourage public employees who suspect or witness government abuse or waste to come forward. Extending whistleblower protections will provide state and local workers with the rights they need to safely report government corruption and wrongdoing without fear of retaliation.”

The bill, S-768, would expand the statutory protections under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) – New Jersey’s whistleblower protection law – to protect employees from retaliation after disclosing any waste of public funds or incidents of governmental abuse or mismanagement.  Under the bill, employees would be protected from retaliation by an employer for whistleblower disclosure, testimony, objection or refusal to participate when the employee’s actions are the result of a reasonable belief that a practice of policy of the employer – or another employer in a business relationship with the whistleblower’s employer – is either a waste of public funds, or amounts to gross mismanagement or abuse of authority when the employer in question is a governmental entity.

Under current law, a whistleblower is protected from retaliation when they disclose, testify or refuse to participate in actions by an employer that they deem to be a criminal or fraudulent misrepresentation or a violation of law, rule or regulation.  This bill would extend whistleblower protections when employer actions don’t extend to the point of criminality, but do amount to waste and abuse of the public trust.

“We know that government waste and abuse can rise to the level of criminal activity,” said Senator Weinberg.  “However, any time there’s reasonable concern that public resources are being wasted or mismanaged, or of government abuse of any kind, we need to ensure that individuals can come forward without being fearful that doing so will affect their employment.  Whether an action violates law or is simply, intrinsically wrong, whistleblowers need to have the freedom from retaliation needed to voice their concerns.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.